Israel must rein in those trying to block Gaza aid convoys

The bravery of World Central Kitchen staff who resumed operations this week contrasts with the vigilantism seen among some Israelis

Israeli protesters block the road to Jordanian lorries carrying humanitarian aid in southern Israel on April 16. That such disruptive actions are allowed to repeatedly take place shows the impunity enjoyed by some right-wing groups in Israel. AFP
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World Central Kitchen founder Jose Andres this week described the charity’s decision to resume operations in Gaza – less than a month after seven of their aid workers were killed there by Israeli forces – as “both the hardest and the simplest” to make.

Mr Andres’s poignant statement reflects both the personal bravery being shown by the charity’s Palestinian team and the dire nature of the humanitarian crisis afflicting the enclave’s more than two million people. WCK staff know they are literally taking their lives in their hands as they work to address the widespread hunger and manmade famine that stalks Gaza; according to the UN, more than 200 aid workers have been killed in Gaza since October 7.

This determination to work with international partners, including the UAE, in saving innocent lives stands in stark contrast to reports on Wednesday that Israeli settlers attacked two Gaza-bound aid convoys coming from Jordan, an incident Amman “condemned in the strongest terms”. Israeli media reported that a right-wing organisation called Tzav 9 had organised a demonstration to block the convoys overnight on Tuesday.

This is not an isolated incident. Some members of the Israeli public have previously attempted to block aid reaching the enclave, including by staging a sit-in at the Nitzana crossing, where Gaza-bound aid enters Israel from Egypt, earlier this month. In February, videos emerged from the Kerem Shalom crossing of people camping out and dancing while they attempted to block aid from reaching Gaza, all under the watchful eye of the Israeli security forces.

The reasons given for obstructing life-saving supplies headed for Gaza – that there should be no aid deliveries until all the Israeli hostages are released – do not stand up to scrutiny. Gaza’s civilians were not responsible for the October 7 abductions, and blocking aid to malnourished non-combatants is an extension of the collective punishment that’s been meted out to Palestinians by the Israeli government for more than six months.

That such disruptive actions are allowed to repeatedly take place shows the impunity enjoyed by some of the Israeli right. The fact that the attack on the Jordanian convoys took place as US Secretary of State Antony Blinken was meeting Israeli President Isaac Herzog in Tel Aviv suggests that those trying to obstruct aid to Gaza have little fear of any repercussions. One need not think too hard to imagine what kind of policing response would greet a public protest staged by Palestinian citizens of Israel.

The killing of the seven WCK workers focused world attention on the nature of the Israeli campaign in Gaza, and drew a sharp response from the US, after which Israel said it would open two new aid routes into northern Gaza. But as the Israel government came under pressure to rein in its military, so too must it restrain the vigilante element among its citizens.

Published: May 03, 2024, 3:00 AM